My Most Memorable Meal: Joanne Renaud

Joanne Renaud is a graduate in illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Before moving to Southern California, she studied graphic design at Central Washington University and art at the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She presently lives in Los Angeles, and is agented by Tugeau2. Recent clients include Simon & Schuster, Random House, Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt Inc., McGraw Hill, and Trillium Publishing.

GFG:Where did you experience your most memorable meal?

JR:It was at the Ciudad de Tui, on the Viejo de Cizur in Madrid.It was the last night in Spain for me and my friend Erika, and we’d had a long and exciting trip traveling around Andalusia and Castile (with a day’s excursion into Morocco as well).We’d been eating thriftily during the entire trip; so for our last supper we wantedto go all out, with sangria, tapas, the whole shebang.

GFG:What was on the menu?

JR:We ordered their tapas menu, and small little plates of empanadas (stuffed pastry), croquettes (fried cheese and ham), jamon Serrano and iberico, fried calamari, and patatas bravas.They brought bread and olives for our table along with an entire pitcher of sangria.The waiting staff was very friendly.They obliged our crazy American wishes, not clearing the table until I sketched everything and Erika took pictures with her digital camera.

This is the sketch of the dinner I drew:

It was really delicious, and we stuffed ourselves.The staff winked at us repeatedly while bringing back the check and gave us 10 euro extra when we asked for change.

GFG:How’d you meet your dining companion Erika Vause?

JR:We met because we’re both interested in the French Revolution.(Yes, the French Rev has spawned its own fannish subculture.)She is currently a grad student in Paris, studying debt imprisonment.She also has turned into a major foodie.She was just telling me the other day how she was enjoying cooking doe meat and boar.

GFG:You just provided the cover art for Joan Betty Stuchner’s book Honey Cake, which is at its heart a story about traditions and family and food.If you had only one recipe to pass on to posterity, what would it be? And why?

JR:Well, I know I wouldn’t pass on Mom’s old recipe for broccoli tuna roll-ups.Ugh.Her ginger beef recipe was pretty good though, although I haven’t had it in ages.The one recipe that I’ve always been obsessed with actually came from my sister’s ex-roommate.It’s a Japanese chicken curry dish, and it’s delicious.

GFG:When you’re working, do you ever forget to eat?

JR:Occasionally, although it doesn’t happen very often.

GFG: If you could share a meal with an artist, who would they be?

JR:The one artist I would really love to share a meal with Trina Schart Hyman, my favorite illustrator growing up.She passed away from cancer a few years ago, sadly.

GFG: You seem to be a fan of Roman history. Who among the Romans would you like to break bread with?

JR:Nero, of course!We could discuss the difference between liquamen (Roman fish sauce) and nam pla (Thai fish sauce).I could tell him that he looked fabulous, and he’d play something catchy on the citharaa.Then we would watch bad toga porn movies and make snarky remarks about the terrible costumes… Hopefully I’d stay on his good side so he wouldn’t poison me, what with his family’s penchant for killer mushrooms and all.

GFG:Do you have a favorite comfort food?

JR: Mrs. Grass’s noodle soup, with its golden nugget of awesomeness!I can eat it for days on end and not get tired of it.The only thing it lacks is matzo balls.

GFG: What was your staple diet when you were in art school? Were you a Ramen noodles and cigarettes girl?

JR:Not really.For the first few years I ate a lot of Art Center cafeteria food, then got sick of it.During my senior year, I started eating healthier, and became a major Trader Joes’ convert.I lost a lot of weight that way, but I wasn’t really thinking of that when I changed my eating habits; I wanted to eat foods that tasted good and made me feel better.

GFG: You studied in Ireland and have traveled widely. Do you have a favorite city?

JR:My favorite city in Ireland would be Belfast!Thereare hundreds of cheap eateries across the city that serves the Ulster Fry (a glorious way to clog your arteries) and my personal favorite, the curry and chip.

Outside Ireland, I’m very fond of both Glasgow (home of the Ashoka West End restaurant, where one can sample haggis pakora) and Madrid.Stateside, I like New York a lot.I try not to go crazy eating out whenever I go there.My favorite restaurants there include Il Corallo Trattoria in Soho, the Mill Korean restaurant near Columbia, and Mexican Radio in the Bowery.And speaking of nam pla, there are lots of great Thai restaurants in Queens, especially Sripraphai.Try the papaya salad, or the kao-soy with chicken.

Joanne Renaud

Honey Cake by Joan Betty Stuchner (Random House) is available in bookstores today.

To see more of Joanne Renaud’s art, check out:

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